Your teams assessed - Capital Football's end of term report and points scores for 13 leading lights
So that was the season that was.
It was a condensed programme of mostly behind-closed-doors action during the pandemic when supporters were cruelly excluded and forced to watch from living-room TVs and desktops.
Here, we take a look at Capital Football's clubs in our annual end-of-term report, to rate the winners and losers and assess the direction of travel ahead of the next round of fixture lists.
Scores are out of 20, based on the views of writers Yann Tear and Paul Lagan. Do you agree with them?
AFC Wimbledon: 14 (YT 6, PL 8)
This has to go down as a great campaign for the Dons for several key reasons, the most obvious of which is the fact they returned to their spiritual home at a brand-new arena in Plough Lane. You cannot put a price on how good that feels and fans will be champing at the bit to sample the stadium next season. But perhaps just as uplifting at the moment is what is happening on the field under a progressive boss. Mark Robinson is placing his trust on a new crop of young players who coped superbly with the pressure of needing points to avert relegation and introduced a style of football which has a more modern look to it than the 4-4-2 approaches of old. Dons fans must hope striker Joe Pigott stays on board but optimism abounds in any case in the shape of talented newcomers like Ryan Longman and Ayoub Assal.
Arsenal: 8 (YT 4, PL 4)
Dire and baffling in equal measure. There will be no European football for the Gunners for the first time in a quarter of a century after a terrible league campaign, which a decent finish cannot mask. Eighth place and seven Emirates defeats with only 24 goals scored on home soil underlines how much of a backward step this felt for Mikel Arteta. There was no solace to be found in the domestic cups or in the Europa League, which featured a supine semi-final elimination at the hands of Villareal. The baffling part is that on their day, Arsenal can still look sublime, as they did in the semi-final victory at Slavia Prague and the home win against Spurs. They have great talents to build around in Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Kieran Tierney, while Nicolas Pepe is showing signs of life. But the Euro Super League fiasco underlined dissatisfaction with the ownership and direction, and a fear of stagnation remains.
Brentford: 18 (YT 9, PL 9)
What more can be said about this amazing success story that hasn’t already been said? Only victory over Spurs in the League Cup semi-final might have been an improvement on a wonderful season which did not need automatic promotion to make it more impressive. The unbeaten mid-season run of 21 league games, Ivan Toney’s goals, an end to the eternal play-off heartaches. All washed down with a first season in shiny new stadium which will next year grace top-flight football for the first time in 74 years. Local west London rivals QPR and Fulham can only look on with envy at the relentless progress the club has made with its highly-profitable, highly-successful stats-based recruitment and selling model. More great adventures lie ahead, especially as star turns need not be sold off as they were after last year’s play-off final defeat.
Charlton Athletic: 11 (YT 5, PL 6)
It could have been so much better. It could have been much worse. Charlton hoped to bounce back quickly after being relegated from the Championship but struggled for consistency under an increasingly irate Lee Bowyer. In the end, the arrival of Nigel Adkins could not fashion a play-off place that perhaps should have been theirs – only goal-difference separated them from sixth-placed Oxford United in the end - but the Addicks have found some stability under a new hands-on owner who is a far-cry from those aloof foreign heads of some of the country’s biggest clubs. Thomas Sandgaard appears to have the club’s best interests at heart and the hope must be that with fans back to help improve results at the Valley, next season will see their heroes feature heavily among the League One front-runners.
Chelsea: 16 (YT 9, PL 7)
The club that continues to defy all football logic has done it again. Sack a manager mid-season and land yourself the Champions League and an FA Cup final appearance. Oh, and secure a top-four finish too. Stability is obviously for losers. Thomas Tuchel inherited a fantastic crop of players from Frank Lampard, but they needed a plan and the German applied his brilliant organisational skills to land the biggest of all club prizes. At the same time, we saw the continued development of Mason Mount and Reece James as well as renewed excellence of Toni Rudiger, Cesar Azpilicueta and the incomparable N’Golo Kante. Big money signing Kai Havertz eclipsed Timo Werner on the biggest stage but the pair, plus Hakim Ziyech, could be joined by even more big names in the summer. With 17 major trophies now in the bag since Roman Abramovich arrived in 2013, the London football world continues to revolve around the Blues, who must be serious title-contenders next season.
Crystal Palace: 13 (YT 6, PL 7)
To finish 14th with an ageing team and a humble budget speaks volumes of the work done by Roy Hodgson to establish the Eagles as a Premier League outfit. Pre-season there were genuine fears about whether this would be the year they were made to feel the pinch, but a squad full of seasoned pros kept the team on an even keel, even after a 7-0 mauling to Liverpool. And there was a refreshing new face in Eberechi Eze, who lit up Selhurst Park with his silky skills. The hope must be that he recovers quickly from a season-ending injury which robbed him of international involvement. Hodgson’s replacement will need to show plenty of resourcefulness and may have to contend with the perennial issue of whether Wilfried Saha stays or not, but they will enjoy a major weapon with the return of fans packing the Holmesdale stand once more.
Fulham: 8 (YT 3, PL 5)
It was a horrible season for the Whites. Every bit as bad as their last short-lived stay in the top flight and maybe even worse because they raised hopes mid-season with a new defensive solidity based around inspired loan signings Joachim Andersen and PSG stopper Alphonse Areola. There was more than a hint that Scott Parker had hit upon a formula that might save them. That made the abject late-season form all the harder to stomach. The double from Josh Maja which brought a first win at Everton and winning for only the second time at Anfield proved a mirage. Scoring only nine times at the Cottage in league matches borders on the criminal and returning fans – however mild-mannered their reputation – will demand much better in the Championship. With the side so itinerant last term, there is an unknown quantity about the months ahead and no obvious guarantee of a quick return to the big time.
Leyton Orient: 13 (YT 6, PL 7)
The 20 goals of Dan Johnson underscored a season of progress for the O’s - even if it was not spectacular enough to land them a shot at the play-offs. They accumulated 19 points more than last year, to clamber up from 17th to 11th and a similar improvement would see them challenging to go up next season. Kenny Jackett is surely a shrewd appointment to the managerial hotseat. His experience should help build on the team left by Jobi McAnuff. Orient’s football looked much slicker last term, with Conor Wilkinson also excelling at times, and they are finally finding their way after two full seasons back in League Two following elevation from the National League. They fell away at the end of the campaign but enjoyed some good moments – none better than the 4-0 thrashing of third-place-finishing Bolton in October.
Millwall: 10 (YT 5, PL 5)
They ended up in mid-table with slightly fewer points than last year, which meant they were never truly among the contenders. A dip in form and results towards the finishing line perhaps was a sign of players recognising their fate as a mid-table outfit. Opponents know what to expect from Gary Rowett’s side and that is usually a tough examination. The way they thwarted Brentford in a goalless draw in west London typified their tough mentality and unashamed reliance on resilient defenders Jake Cooper, Scott Malone and Shaun Hutchinson. Having such a sound keeper in ever-present Bartosz Bialkowski also lends them a solid base, while at the other end, Jed Wallace continues to carry the responsibility as chief creator. Hard to see a major change in the narrative next term.
QPR: 11 (YT 6, PL 5)
Of course, it felt like the double-whammy from hell for Rangers fans, seeing neighbours Chelsea and Brentford carry off all that glory on the same day. But the club has every right to feel a glow of satisfaction at the way the season panned out under Mark Warburton’s canny leadership. The return of Charlie Austin galvanised the Hoops, who surged from a lowly base to finish ninth in the Championship after a fine second half of the season. Rob Dickie and the ever-present Yoann Barbet lent stability to the back line while top scorer Lyndon Dykes weighed in with some important goals. Stefan Johansen’s loan move from Fulham was inspired. The introduction of young talents like Sam Field, Osman Kakay and Chris Willock points to more progress in the months ahead, all being well.
Tottenham: 9 (YT 4, PL 5)
It began with the thrilling prospect of Gareth Bale linking up with Harry Kane and ended with the likelihood that neither will be around next term. And losing Kane will feel even more depressing for fans than the League Cup final defeat to Man City which scuppered hopes of a first trophy in 13 years. Finishing a point and a place above Arsenal was the smallest of consolations – along with that qualification for the newly-launching Europa Conference League, the third-tier Euro competition. A dismal Europa League exit in Zagreb shocked Jose Mourinho and paved the way for his sudden departure. But it was perhaps to be expected after an increasingly-fractious relationship with his players, several of whom - like Dele Alli - he publicly criticised. The club’s involvement in the quickly-aborted Super League was a huge embarrassment to heap on many others. Chairman Daniel Levy has big decisions to make in the summer – not least who takes over from interim boss Ryan Mason.
Watford: 14 (YT8, PL 6)
Job done. The Hornets will be back in the Prem next season after just one year away and for all the continuous chopping and changing of management by the Pozzo family, they have retained a retinue and good players for Xisco Munoz to husband. Watford won 17 and lost only four of their matches after mid-January when a run of 10 wins in 11 games firmly established them as likely runners-up to Norwich City in the Championship. Ismaila Sarr was the stand-out performer in a large squad which shared the workload. It will be interesting to see whether there is enough mileage in old warhorses Troy Deeney and Andre Gray to make an impact next year. The likelihood is that there will be investment in a few new faces to give the team a fighting chance of survival. There is experience in the ranks, but it won’t be easy.
West Ham: 15 (YT 7, PL 8)
David Moyes deserves all the praise going after somehow steering the Hammers to their second-best finish in the top flight since the brilliant class of 86. West Ham finished sixth, only two points and two places behind Champions League winners Chelsea and it speaks volumes that they ended the campaign a bit disappointed to have qualified for the Europa League when they came so close to landing a Champions League spot. They badly need to keep Declan Rice at the club next term and build on the excellent drive of Tomas Soucek in midfield and Michail Antonio up front. Returning fans are coming back to watch a very entertaining side which has reignited ambitions at the club and they will relish one last season of heart-on-the-sleeve Mark Noble, who racked up his 400th Premier League appearance.